A surprising internal poll is casting a spotlight on a previously ignored congressional race in Oregon that may foretell a November bloodbath for Democrats even worse than anyone has imagined.

Two years ago, 12-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio cruised to victory in Oregon’s 4th District with 82 percent of the vote.

But a survey of likely voters by Wilson Research Strategies for the conservative group Concerned Taxpayers of America has the Democrat up by only 6 points, 48 to 42, over Republican nominee Art Robinson.

The Washington insider publication The Hill opines: “If Robinson, a first-time candidate, is even within 10 points of DeFazio, it makes you wonder how many other sleeper races might be out there ahead of this fall.”

Robinson, an accomplished chemical scientist who homeschooled his six children after his wife died in 1988, contends DeFazio was feeling the heat long before the poll, the first substantial publicized gauge of the race.

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While running hard against his own party – boasting of his few votes against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama – the Democrat DeFazio has been characterizing Robinson as an extremist, unfit for the geographically large southwest Oregon district that includes the left-leaning state university towns of Eugene and Corvallis along with conservative rural communities.

Robinson – noting his campaign has distributed 40,000 yard signs and barely has been able to keep up with demand – said he’s been riding “a wave of middle class anger” that apparently has as much passion in his district as anywhere in the country.

“People are telling me they haven’t seen a campaign like this for a generation,” he said in an interview with WND. “Not that I’m a rock star, but I am putting one foot in front of another and articulating what they believe.”

But Robinson says DeFazio is gaining momentum with a TV and radio “smear campaign”– based on outright lies and fabrications, he claims – that appears to have cast enough doubt about him to cause some independents to reconsider their support.

“There was a growing feeling that we were making a lot of headway,” Robinson told WND. “What he’s trying to do is not to convince people that all this stuff is true, but to cast doubt.”

Art Robinson at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine he founded

Robinson said his campaign did some basic phone polling that indicated he could win about 15 percent of Democrats, which have a 9 percent advantage in registration. A Magellen Strategies poll of district voters published June 30 found 36 percent would vote Republican, 35 percent Democrat and 29 percent were undecided.

Unscientific feedback indicated Robinson was winning by a large margin in rural areas, possibly enough to overcome the Democratic Party bastions of Eugene and Lane County.

Robinson said he has done about 130 meetings with enthusiastic citizens, drawing from 10 to 600, depending upon the area’s population. In DeFazio’s few meetings, the incumbent has encountered the current national mood.

“The middle class are mad, and they target his meetings,” Robinson said.

But with DeFazio’s ad campaign, he explained, there is “now a huge river of negativism about us.”

Robinson recounts a supporter telling him, “My sister was going to vote for you, but she’s worried about you saying you would shut public schools.”

For the record, Robinson insists that while he has been a strong critic of the public school system, he has never advocated shutting it down. His desire is to return schools to local control. Critics, he said, have seized on a response he gave to a question after a speech on global warming to Republican state legislators in Maine more than 10 years ago. A lawmaker asked, “What do you think should be done with the public schools?” In jest, Robinson blurted out, “Those schools should be abolished,” prompting a “wild” standing ovation. Robinson went on to say that by looking at the room, one would conclude that every Republican lawmaker in Maine is ready to abolish public schools.

DeFazio campaign flier

“Of course not a single one would have voted to do so,” he said. “It just showed how mad we all were.”

The statement and the response, Robinson explained, was merely an expression of how upset people are with the quality of public schools.

Among other assertions in ads by DeFazio’s campaign are that Robinson is funded by Big Oil and Wall Street, wants to cancel taxes for oil executives, vows to end payments to Social Security recipients and calls for injecting radiation into drinking water. He’s also been labeled a racist.

Last week, Robinson had a memorable faceoff with Rachel Maddow in which the MSNBC host brought up some of the DeFazio campaign’s accusations.

Other Democratic Congress members in tight races have been accused of running smear ads, including Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, who has dubbed his Republican opponent Daniel Webster “Taliban Dan.” A Grayson ad takes out of context a recording of Webster citing the biblical admonition “Wives submit to your husbands” and compares his opponent to the Muslim terrorist group in Afghanistan. Another ad falsely calls Webster a “draft dodger.”

The DeFazio campaign has not responded to WND’s requests for comment.

Running from leadership

Robinson says De Fazio, outspending him by an estimated 10 to 1, has rejected calls for debates, agreeing only to a couple of “forums,” and either does not document his claims or takes them out of context.

WASHINGTON - MAY 06: Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) holds a US House Transportation and Infrastructure, Highways and Transit Subcommittee hearing on diesel fuel prices in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, May 6, 2008, in Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

DeFazio’s campaign has cast him as an independent voice in Congress, but Robinson notes the lawmaker is a member of the far-left Congressional Progressive Caucus who has voted against Pelosi only 14 percent of the time, “when it hasn’t mattered.”

“If you look at his voting record, he’s a hard-core socialist who has managed to stay out of the public limelight but be open to our worst enemies for two decades,” Robinson said.

DeFazio boasts that he voted against the “cap and trade” bill, based on “global warming” science, that Republicans call a de facto tax on energy that would cripple the economy. But Robinson asserts DeFazio was opposed only because the bill wasn’t strong enough. DeFazio is co-sponsoring a measure, Robinson pointed out, that will gradually cut the use of greenhouse energy until it is reduced by 80 percent.

As WND has reported, Robinson himself has dramatically documented the lack of unanimity in the scientific community on man-made global warming through a petition he started, signed thus far by more than 31,000 dissenting, qualified scientists, including more than 9,000 Ph.D.s. The scientists agree “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

While DeFazio voted against the Wall Street bailout and the $700 stimulus plan, he backed the unpopular health care reform bill that has helped fuel the tea party movement.

On his campaign website, DeFazio decries an independent ad favoring Robinson, bought by the sponsors of the poll showing a tight race, Concerned Taxpayers of America.

The Democrat’s campaign statement calls the group “shadowy special interests tying DeFazio to our problems in Washington.”

The ad, DeFazio’s campaign says, “attempts to link DeFazio to key policies supported by leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, DeFazio has voted against his leaders’ on key policies including the Wall Street bailout, the Stimulus bill, and cap and trade legislation.”

DeFazio, his campaign boasts, “was even famously chided by President Obama in a House Caucus meeting telling DeFazio, ‘Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother,’ in reference to his no vote on stimulus legislation.”

Robinson is the founder, president and professor of chemistry at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a research institute that studies protein chemistry, nutrition, and predictive and preventive medicine. In 1973, he co-founded the Institute of Orthomolecular Medicine in Menlo Park, Calif., along with famed Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling. He earned a doctorate from the University of California San Diego and immediately was appointed to the school’s faculty. After his wife died in 1988, he developed the popular Robinson Curriculum to self-educate his six children, who also used the money from their homeschool curriculum business to put themselves through college. To date, one has earned a Ph.D. from Cal Tech, two have docotrates in veterinary medicine, and the other three are working toward their Ph.D.s in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University.

Big bucks

One DeFazio TV ad, showing him driving an old car with his two dogs, charges Robinson “has taken big bucks from Wall Street, and he is with them all the way.”

A graphic, citing Federal Election Commission filings, says “Robinson Took $40K from Wall Street & Finance.”

Another DeFazio ad urges voters to “Tell Art Robinson and his big money specialists that this election isn’t for sale.”

But Robinson has not taken any money from “Wall Street,” he says, noting that DeFazio’s campaign apparently has regarded donors who have investments as “Wall Street bigwigs.” Robinson said he has a donor in New York City who happens to be a personal investor, but that, he argues, hardly fits the definition of Wall Street firms donating to a candidate to influence legislation. Some 3,600 individual donors have given his campaign a total of about $900,000, he said.

He explained that because of his national stature as a scientist and his work in defense, energy and medicine under several administrations, beginning with President Reagan, he has many friends across the country. But about two-thirds of his donations come from his district, he said.

Big Oil

A new DeFazio TV ad charges Robinson is “bankrolled by special interests.”

The narrator intones: “No wonder [Robinson] has a plan to deregulate energy companies, ending all safety and environmental rules. Robinson wants off-shore drilling anywhere, including the Oregon coast, and he’s said repeatedly that Big Oil and their executives should pay no taxes, as their profits skyrocket, and we pay through the nose.”

“Don’t be fooled,” the narrator concludes, “Art Robinson’s on their side, not ours.”

Robinson told WND that as an outspoken critic of the theory of man-made global warming, he has made a point of not taking any money from oil companies. He also has refused to take any payment for speeches on global warming.

He acknowledges he wants to “roll back excessive taxation and regulation” on energy, but that includes not only oil but all other sources, including wind, solar, coal and natural gas.

Radiate drinking water?

The DeFazio campaign also has claimed in ads that Robinson wants to inject radiation into drinking water.

Robinson insists he’s never said that, calling the contention a gross distortion of discussions about a new field of science called hormesis.

Drinking water is full of radiation, he explained, and it’s a matter of how much the government will allow.

The science indicates, he said, that while too much radiation can kill, a small amount might be beneficial, keeping the body’s repair mechanisms in shape.

“The question is what is the optimum background radiation for a human being,” he said. “Some day – this will be a long time in the future – we will adjust our background radiation.”

Colorado, for example, he said, has twice the background radiation of some other places and has a lower lung cancer rate. Houses may be built some day, he said, in a way that optimizes the radiation level.

“This is science, not advocacy,” Robinson said. “I have never said we should put radiation in drinking water.”

‘Ponzi scheme’

DeFazio’s campaign also has floated the assertion that Robinson wants to end payments to Social Security recipients.

Robinson maintains he’s “never said anything of the kind,” though he views Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” that has broken trust with the American people and has had its funds “stolen by Congress.”

The DeFazio campaign, Robinson said, also has circulated a claim that he is racist, based on a book he has published as part of his homeschool curriculum.

In the historical novel, written in the 19th century by the famous British author G.A. Henty, a character in Africa expresses views of tribal people that would be considered offensive by modern sensibilities.

Robinson points out he also has published Mark Twain’s classic “Huck Finn,” whose fictional characters express racist views, and no one has complained. He also has published a book about black pioneer Booker T. Washington.

“They pick the one line by a fictional character, and they say I’m a racist,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s own TV ads have emphasized tea party themes of free enterprise, lower taxation and grass-roots politics.

In one TV ad he says Americans have accomplished extraordinary feats because they are free, “but today taxation, regulation and litigation are squeezing the American people.” The only way to solve our economic problems, he says, is “to win back our freedom.”

In another, he recalls the founding fathers’ preference for “citizen legislators” rather than “career politicians.”

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